Teresa Berganza told in her memoirs Flower of Solitude and Silence that at the age of 15 she ran away from home and entered a convent in Alcalá de Henares. In her days as a cloistered nun she got up early to sing religious music until her father appeared there to propose a change of habits and enroll her in the conservatory. A decade later, the mezzo-soprano who died this Friday at the age of 89 dazzled the world during her international debut at the Aix-en-Provence Festival as Dorabella in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, which was, along with Rossini, one of his fetish composers and the one who would end up making school.

As he passed through the great operatic temples (from La Scala to the Metropolitan through the Royal Opera House) he showed off immaculate phrasing and an amazing ability to color the notes. “I chose to be a woman, a singer and a mother when it was not so easy to reconcile,” she said in one of the last interviews she gave to this medium. “And not once did I put applause before the love of my children.”

In the early years of his career he came to share the bill with Maria Callas (during a Medea in Dallas) and was under the orders of directors of the stature of Ataúlfo Argenta, Daniel Barenboim, Otto Klemperer, George Solti… He even came to face Herbert von Karajan when he proposed to debut at the Vienna State Opera in a luxury cast with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. “He told me my voice wasn’t working and I replied very politely that he was the one that wasn’t working.”

In the light of her agenda, she dedicated herself to touring the best concert halls (including Carnegie Hall in New York) as a recitalist together with her husband for 20 years, the pianist Félix Lavilla, and father of her three children. : Teresa, Javier and also the singer Cecilia.

In 1977, and at the request of Claudio Abbado, she embodied for the first time the gypsy cigar maker of the Seville Tobacco Factory. Her uninhibited Carmen and a regimen of stereotypes marked an era and catapulted her to stardom. “I got so into her character that I found the strength to break away from her,” she was honest. “Without her, perhaps I would not have dared…”. In 1991 she shared with Alfredo Kraus, Plácido Domingo, Montserrat Caballé, Victoria de los Ángeles, Pilar Lorengar and José Carreras the Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts in recognition of a generation of voices that reigned in the world of opera. After participating with them in the opening ceremonies of the Seville Expo and the Barcelona Games, she became the first woman to be elected a member of the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts.

With the turn of the millennium, Berganza took refuge in a 17th-century mansion with views of the Basilica of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. She lived surrounded by memories (a poster for La Scala, a sketch of Carmen by the dressmaker Elio Berhanyer…), records (the 180 covers that lit up her career) and old photographs (with the King and Queen, arm in arm with Leonard Cohen and together with Mstislav Rostropovich). “I’ve been so lucky that I’m kind of shy about collecting awards,” she told visitors to her home museum. “I have lived a dream. That has been my real prize.”

One fine day, without further ado, he stopped singing. After 53 years in business, he noticed that he was beginning to drag some notes and that it was difficult for him to breathe. “I understood that my time had come and I accepted it without question.” She said goodbye to her during a recital at the 2008 Santander Festival and, as she received the warm applause of the audience, she felt something inside her release from her. It was the end of an era, but also the beginning of a period without anguish. Or as he liked to say to her: “I’m so intense that I don’t know how to give myself halfway.” In Paris she earned the nickname of Madame Annulation. If she was not ready to sing, she canceled. Either she gave it all or nothing.

After his discreet withdrawal, he opened the exceptions section of his calendar on the occasion of a tribute to the soprano Victoria de los Ángeles. “I have had a full life,” she confessed then. “I have done what I have proposed and I could not be happier. I know that death is near, and I have fully accepted it. I do not want any kind of paraphernalia, nor do I want to go out anywhere. I want to stop being Teresa Berganza with the same restraint with which I began». So much so, that after the news of his death was announced, his daughter Cecilia shared the following statement: “Addio de Teresa: ‘I want to leave quietly… I don’t want public announcements, nor wakes , or anything. She came into the world and no one found out, so I wish the same when I leave.’ The whole family respects her will. Our tribute will be to remember her in all the fullness of her and continue to enjoy her through interpretations of her to always remember her.”

On the occasion of her 80th birthday, Queen Sofía presided over a tribute gala at the Royal Theater and was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Alfonso X the Wise. Unaffordable to divisive shoots, she also did not then she posed for flashes. “I have shared a table with very powerful people, leaders and posh businessmen, but without dwelling too much on desserts…”.

Teresa Berganza never forgot her mother’s advice after her first success at the Ateneo Madrid: “Never forget who you are,” she told him in the dressing room. “Always stay humble.”

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